There are a lot of popular sports shoe brands out there in the world today, and one of the earliest is still one of the most influential, enjoying a loyal following all across the globe- the August ASICS brand. The name is an acronym of the Latin phrase “Anima sana in corpore sano” which translates into English as “A sound mind in a sound body”. This philosophy is the guiding light that has led the brand to great success and continues to inform it in this new century.

It was the personal belief of Kihachiro Onitsuka that living an active lifestyle fostered a healthier person and he built Asic Shoes on that idea. It was Onitsuka’s dream that participants in all manner of sports, amateurs to professionals, could access and make use of his brand of shoes.

Kihachiro Onitsuka was a veteran of the military living in post-war Japan, a difficult period when the Japanese people were busy reconstructing their homes and rebuilding their lives following the terrible devastation the war left behind. Onitsuka’s driving goal was to lift the spirits and morale of his people by encouraging their participation in athletics. He decided to become a manufacturer of quality sports shoes, a piece of gear every athlete needed, and so he founded the Onitsuka Company with just a few employees and began by making basketball shoes.

Onitsuka found inspiration for one of his company’s first shoe models while eating a dish of octopus salad. He realised that the octopus tentacle’s powerful suction could be emulated in the rubber sole of a shoe, providing superior grip on the basketball court. Onitsuka and his production team experimented with deepening the sole’s dimples to make them more like an octopus’s suction cups, but their first efforts were too strong, and the prototype shoe became stuck to the floor! 

They continued to refine and run tests until they arrived at the perfect formula and knew they had a hit on their hands, or rather, their feet! The resulting shoe’s great tenacity caused it to be called the “Onitsuka Tiger” and proved to be extremely popular with the game’s star players at professional games, thus beginning the shoe’s spread across the globe.

The Onitsuka Tiger’s popularity marked a tremendous milestone for the company, and the success was attributed to the Japanese concept of Kaizen, which refers to continuous improvement, a creed held dear by founder Kihachiro Onitsuka.

In the year 1977, the Onitsuka Company merged with Jelenk Co., Ltd., and GTO Co., Ltd. to form the  ASICS Corporation. The company had the pleasure of celebrating the 100th birthday of Mr. Onitsuka, and the Onitsuka Tiger is still in production in his honour. Since its inception the company has been a consistently groundbreaking leader in the art and science of sports shoes, inventing many amazing features like Gel-Kayano, a material used to cushion the feet from impact. 

Once again an animal provided the inspiration for innovation, this time in the form of a beetle. Product designer Toshikazu Kayano wanted to build a better running shoe that featured sturdy construction but was still light and nimble.  Kayano happened across a stag beetle and marvelled that despite its cumbersome-looking protective exoskeleton the insect was still able to move very quickly. He based his prototype on the humble beetle, resulting in the famed Gel-Kayano shoe, which provides support, protection, cushioning, and comfort to runners.

ASICS in the 21st century continues to build on Onitsuka’s dreams and principles, creating athletic shoes designed to increase people’s ability to perform at their peak and to achieve their potential. The results have been amazing, but we mustn’t forget nature’s contribution to ASICS’ great success in the form of an octopus and a beetle.